Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said at the very time Australia needs a strong research sector, existing funding sources have declined significantly.
“University revenues have been hit hard by COVID-19, specifically by the declining international student enrolments due to border closures. We estimate universities will lose between $3 billion and $4.6 billion this year, and more after that,” Ms Jackson said.
“Governments encouraged universities to develop education as an export sector and a new source of revenue to fund both research and teaching, and we did. Now international education is Australia’s fourth largest export, adding $39 billion to our nation’s bottom line each year.”
“High quality university education informed by world-class research is what makes our higher education sector so highly regarded worldwide and so attractive to students from home and abroad.”
“It could take up to five years to recover from this, and that has massive consequences for the sustainability of research funding – and the success of Australia’s knowledge economy.”
Modelling by Curtin University estimates the loss of international student income could be as high as $2.5 billion nationally in 2020, putting 38 percent of research salaries at risk.
“These are salaries that support the 79,008 talented research students, post-doctoral researchers and world-renowned professors. They are the people at the frontline of Australia’s efforts to trace and respond to COVID-19,” Ms Jackson said.
“They are also the researchers working on the innovations, spin-offs and start-ups that will potentially employ hundreds of thousands of Australians in new jobs and help drive our nation’s economic recovery.”
“Australia’s investment in research and development is already at its lowest level in 15 years. In 2017-18, Australia invested just 1.79 per cent of GDP. The OECD average is 2.38 per cent.”
“We are now calling for Government to strengthen our investment in research. This is not only an investment in universities, but an investment in the health of Australians and in new jobs on the other side of this pandemic.”